Sheila Dikshit stood by me in my darkest years: Sonia

Senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi during Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, at AICC HQ in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI photo

Congress president Sonia Gandhi paid a moving tribute to Sheila Dikshit on Saturday, saying the former Delhi chief minister stood by her side in her "darkest years" and had also urged her to take up the Congress party's presidency.

Recalling her association with Dikshit, the UPA chairperson said that Dikshit guided her like an elder sister rather than a party colleague.

"My association with Sheilaji is longer than my political career. She stood by my side in my darkest years, later urging me again and again to take on the Presidentship of the Congress Party.

"When I did, she was there guiding me more like an older sister than a party colleague," she said.

At a programme held in memory of the three-time chief minister, Gandhi said that Dikshit never shied away from shouldering responsibility no matter how challenging.

"In the most recent elections, this year, she stepped forward like a loyal soldier of the party to contest a Lok Sabha seat even though she had not been too well. Sheilaji's life teaches us that that there is nothing more worthy for a public person than genuine service of the people," Gandhi said.

About Dikshit's political career, Gandhi said she was one of the most able administrator the city ever had and was respected by people across political spectrum.

Her vision and hard work transformed the Indian capital into a thriving and efficient metropolis, making it a better place for all its inhabitants, Gandhi said.

"Her years at the helm became her crowning achievement. We who live here and benefited remain grateful and proud of her accomplishments," she said.

Remember Dikhshit, Gandhi became emotional as she said, "Delhi and the Congress party won't be the same without Sheilaji."

"The city has lost its most able administrator and the party has lost one of its most committed workers. But we can attempt to fill this void by upholding those very principles and ideals she stood for and dedicated her life to.

"In that way we will be honouring a remarkable individual, a proud party colleague and an exemplary woman leader. We will miss her, but we are grateful that she was among us and that her memory will continue to inspire us," Gandhi said.

Gandhi said that being a student of history, Dikshit was aware that success does not come without struggle and that is why in adverse times she was able to maintain her grit and composure.

"In her long years in public service, she experienced life's ups and downs, victories and defeats. But she took it all in her stride, and responded to the call whenever it came, always keeping her sights firmly on the larger goal of making a difference," she said.

"Rarely does history bring together compassion, statesmanship, efficiency and stamina in one person. Sheilaji was one such example in recent times," Gandhi stated.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who also paid tribute to Dikshit and recalled his close ties with the leader.

Referring to the current political scenario, Yechury said Dikshit in the recent times used to "express concern over the atmosphere of hatred and violence that is spreading across the nation" and used to say it is not good for India, or any political party.

Her passing away has created a huge void, he said.

"She always believed that despite differences in political ideology, the scope for discourse should always remain open," Yechury said, adding this is now lacking in the country.

Veteran actor Sharmila Tagore was also among those who paid tribute to Dikshit at the programme 'A celebration of the life of Sheila Dikshit' put together by her children Latika and Sandeep at the Modern School, Barakhamba Road on Saturday.

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